Resurgence in “Tech Support” Scams
Your Better Business Bureau is warning of a recent resurgence in “tech support” scams, in which scammers contact people through a phone call, offering computer support services.
A typical tech support scam consists of the caller claiming to represent a well-known company like Microsoft, or they may allege affiliation with a generic sounding company name. The caller claims to have received an alert that the individual’s computer is infected by a virus, but the issue can be fixed by providing them with remote access to the computer. Sometimes the caller may charge a fee, ranging from $100 to $400. If the victim downloads the software to give the scammer remote access, they unknowingly download an actual virus or tracking program that enables retrieval of personal information stored on their computer.
One local victim reported that a tech support scammer contacted her from a private phone number and offered to fix her computer for $150. After logging into the provided account to grant remote access, she decided against paying the fee and hung-up. However, her computer no longer worked after the incident.
“Though the Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on operators of several international tech support scams, these types of con artists continue to prey on unsuspecting people,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “We may hear about different variations of this scam, but the end result is always the same – identity theft and/or financial loss for the victim.”
BBB offers the following tips to prevent falling victim to a tech support scam:
- "Tech support" callers may not be who they claim to be – Computer companies and other legitimate businesses will never make an unsolicited call claiming that there is a problem with your computer that needs addressed. They have no way of knowing this, unless you initiate the contact.
- Maintain control – If you are experiencing computer problems, look for a reputable repair company to fix it at bbb.org. Remember that any time you hand over remote control to someone else, they can access any and all parts of your computer operating system and personal files.
- Use safe payment methods – When buying goods and services online, steer clear of businesses and individuals who only accept payment by wire transfer or cashier's check. Instead, use a secure form of payment such as a credit card or trusted online payment system, which can offer more security if you need to dispute the charge.
- Spread the word – Educate friends and family about tech scams, and encourage them to hang up on unsolicited phone calls that supposedly come from computer companies. In the event they have a question or concern, they should directly contact their computer manufacturer's customer or technical support.
For additional information and tips regarding “tech support” scams, visit bbb.org